Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Transcendence, Is God Flesh or Spirit?

This is what the Lord says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?”

“God is spirit,” said Jesus to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:24). Though fully personal, God does not live in and through a body as we do, and so is not anchored in a spatio-temporal frame. From this fact, plus the further fact that he is self-existent and not marked as we are by the personal disintegration (lack of concentration and control) that sin has produced in us, several things follow.

First, God is limited neither by space (he is everywhere in his fullness continually) nor by time (there is no “present moment” into which he is locked as we are). Theologians refer to God’s freedom from limits and bounds as his infinity, his immensity, and his transcendence (1 Kings 8:27; Isa. 40:12-26; 66:1). As he upholds everything in being, so he has everything everywhere always before his mind, in its own relation to his all-inclusive plan and purpose for every item and every person in his world (Dan. 4:34-35; Eph. 1:11).

Second, God is immutable. This means that he is totally consistent: because he is necessarily perfect, he cannot change either for the better or for the worse; and because he is not in time he is not subject to change as creatures are (2 Pet. 3:8). Far from being detached and immobile, he is always active in his world, constantly making new things spring forth (Isa. 42:9; 2 Cor. 5:17; Rev. 21:5); but in all this he expresses his perfect character with perfect consistency. It is precisely the immutability of his character that guarantees his adherence to the words he has spoken and the plans he has made (Num. 23:19; Ps. 33:11; Mal. 3:6; James 1:16-18); and it is this immutability that explains why, when people change their attitude to him, he changes his attitude to them (Gen. 6:5-7; Exod. 32:9-14; 1 Sam. 15:11; Jon. 3:10). The idea that the changelessness of God involves unresponsive indifference to what goes on in his world is the precise opposite of the truth.

Third, God’s feelings are not beyond his control, as ours often are. Theologians express this by saying that God is impassible. They mean not that he is impassive and unfeeling but that what he feels, like what he does, is a matter of his own deliberate, voluntary choice and is included in the unity of his infinite being. God is never our victim in the sense that we make him suffer where he had not first chosen to suffer. Scriptures expressing the reality of God’s emotions (joy, sorrow, anger, delight, love, hate, etc.) abound, however, and it is a great mistake to forget that God feels—though in a way of necessity that transcends a finite being’s experience of emotion.
Fourth, all God’s thoughts and actions involve the whole of him. This is his integration, sometimes called his simplicity. It stands in stark contrast to the complexity and lack of integration of our own personal existence, in which, as a result of sin, we are scarcely ever, perhaps never, able to concentrate the whole of our being and all our powers on anything. One aspect of the marvel of God, however, is that he simultaneously gives total and undivided attention not just to one thing at a time but to everything and everyone everywhere in his world past, present, and future (cf. Matt. 10:29-30).

Fifth, the God who is spirit must be worshiped in spirit and in truth, as Jesus said (John 4:24). “In spirit” means “from a heart renewed by the Holy Spirit.” No rituals, body movements, or devotional formalities constitute worship without involvement of the heart, which the Holy Spirit alone can induce. “In truth” means “on the basis of God’s revelation of reality, which culminates in the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.” First and foremost, this is the revelation of what we are as lost sinners and of what God is to us as Creator-Redeemer through Jesus’ mediatorial ministry.
No one place on earth is now prescribed as the only center for worship. God’s symbolic dwelling in earthly Jerusalem was replaced when the time came (John 4:23) by his dwelling in heavenly Jerusalem, whence Jesus now ministers (Heb. 12:22-24). In the Spirit, “the Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth,” wherever they may be (Ps. 145:18; cf. Heb. 4:14-16). This worldwide availability of God is part of the good news of the gospel; it is a precious benefit, and should not simply be taken for granted.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Study: U.S. Religious Landscape Who's Growing and Who's Not

Study shows most detailed estimates to date of the size and demographic characteristics of religious groups in the U.S. and finds that religious affiliation is both very diverse and extremely fluid.

The first report of the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey finds that:

o More than a quarter of American adults have left the faith of their childhood in favor of another religion – or no religion at all. If change in affiliation from one type of Protestantism to another is included, roughly 44% of American adults have either switched religious affiliation, moved from being unaffiliated with any religion to being affiliated with a particular faith, or dropped any connection to a specific religious tradition altogether.

o The number of adults who say they are not affiliated with any particular faith today (16.1%) is more than double the number who say they were not affiliated with a particular religion as children. Men are significantly more likely than women to claim no religious affiliation. Among Americans ages 18-29, one-in-four say they are not currently affiliated with a particular religion. At the same time, the majority of people who were not affiliated with any particular religion as a child now say that they are associated with a religious group.

o The U.S. is on the verge of becoming a minority Protestant country. The number of Americans who are affiliated with Protestant denominations now stands at barely over 51%; as recently as the mid-1980s, in contrast, surveys found that approximately two-thirds of the population was Protestant.

o The Catholic share of the U.S. adult population has held fairly steady in recent decades. What this apparent stability obscures, however, is the large number of people who have left the Catholic Church. Approximately one-third of the survey respondents who were raised Catholic no longer describe themselves as Catholic; this means roughly 10% of all Americans are former Catholics. These losses, however, have been offset partly by the number of people joining the Catholic Church but mostly by the disproportionately high number of Catholics among immigrants to the U.S. The result is that the total percentage of the population that identifies as Catholic (roughly one-in-four) has remained fairly stable.

o Latinos currently account for nearly one-in-three adult Catholics in the U.S. and may account for an even larger share of U.S. Catholics in the future. Although Latinos represent just one-in-eight U.S. Catholics age 70 and older (12%), they account for nearly half of all Catholics ages 18-29 (45%). Immigrants also are disproportionately represented among several world religions in the U.S., including Islam and Hinduism.

o The Midwest most closely resembles the religious makeup of the overall adult population of the U.S. The South, by a wide margin, has the heaviest concentration of members of evangelical Protestant churches. The Northeast has the greatest concentration of Catholics, and the West has the largest proportion of unaffiliated people, including the largest proportion of atheists and agnostics.

o Among people who are married, nearly four-in-ten (37%) are married to a spouse with a different religious affiliation. This figure includes Protestants who are married to another Protestant from a different denominational family, such as a Baptist who is married to a Methodist.

o Hindus and Mormons are the most likely to be married (78% and 71%, respectively) and to be married to someone of the same religion (90% and 83%, respectively). Mormons and Muslims are the groups with the largest families; more than one-in-five Mormon and 15% of Muslim adults in the U.S. have three or more children living at home.

o Nearly half of Hindus in the U.S., one-third of Jews and a quarter of Buddhists have obtained post-graduate education, compared with only about one-in-ten of the adult population overall. Hindus and Jews are also much more likely than other groups to report high income levels.

o In sharp contrast to Islam and Hinduism, Buddhism in the United States is primarily made up of native-born adherents, whites and converts. Only one-in-three American Buddhists describe their race as Asian, and three-in-four Buddhists say they are converts to Buddhism.

To read more click here.

Signs of the Apocolypse: Youth Pastor Praised for Admitting to Murder

A 29-year-old youth pastor who confessed to killing a man nearly 14 years ago is receiving an outpouring of praise for taking responsibility for his actions. Calvin Wayne Inman, who was 16 when he stabbed a convenience store clerk during a robbery, resigned from his youth position in December but is still receiving lots of support from church members:

“He’s a hero, really,” said Kelley Graham, 24. “I don’t know how many people would do what he did. The Bible says you just need to confess to God. Calvin took an extra step.”

Cheryl Ellis, a member of the church’s youth staff, has gone as far as to say that Inman is already paying his debt to society by teaching young people the right thing to do, and argues that putting him in prison would rob “the next generation of a mentor.” While Inman’s effort to take responsibility is admirable, it does not change the gravity of the crime he committed, nor the fact that sin has consequences. So why would anyone think a repentant spirit should earn him a “Get out of jail free” card?

HT: Kristin Chapman

Jehovah's Witnesses Among Fastest-Growing U.S. Faiths

Jehovah's Witnesses, with just more than 1 million members, were the fastest growing church body in North America in 2006, according to an annual compilation of church membership figures. Although the Jehovah's Witnesses ranked 24th of the 25 largest U.S. churches, they had the highest growth rate, at 2.25 percent, according to the 2008 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. The badly divided Episcopal Church, meanwhile, reported the largest decrease, with a 4.15 percent drop in membership. The Roman Catholic Church, with more than 67 million members, remains the largest U.S. church body, followed by the Southern Baptist Convention (16 million) and the United Methodist Church (7.9 million).

Wiley Drake Calls Out the Heavenly Hit Men?

Church-state watchdog Barry Lynn is accusing conservative California pastor Wiley Drake of urging his followers "to pray for the deaths of staff members at (Lynn's) Americans United for Separation of Church and State."

Last August, Americans United filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service about Drake’s use of church letterhead and a church-based radio program to endorse presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Federal tax law forbids tax-exempt groups from endorsing or opposing candidates for public office.

In a Feb. 5 letter, the IRS notified Drake that his First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park is being investigated.

In response, Drake issued a Feb. 14 e-mail appeal to followers to engage in “imprecatory prayers” (curses) against Americans United and three of its staff members.

“Trying to turn God into some sort of heavenly hit man is repugnant,” Lynn concluded. “There is more than a whiff of the Taliban in this action”

The Ark of the Covenant has Been FOUND?!?!?

When last we saw the lost Ark of the Covenant in action, it had been dug up by Indiana Jones in Egypt and ark-napped by Nazis, whom the Ark proceeded to incinerate amidst a tempest of terrifying apparitions. But according to Tudor Parfitt, a real life scholar-adventurer, Raiders of the Lost Ark had it wrong, and the Ark is actually nowhere near Egypt. In fact, Parfitt claims he has traced it (or a replacement container for the original Ark), to a dusty bottom shelf in a museum in Harare, Zimbabwe.

To read more click here.

An Amazing Christian School Sets the Tone!

Inside a building that looks like a roller rink because it used to be one, students at the Logos School in the small northern Idaho town of Moscow are being initiated into an inheritance that the school describes as "classical and Christ-centered." Unsurprisingly, students learn the Bible and take classes in Christian doctrine.

To these subjects, however, Logos adds liberal arts and classical studies. Second-graders chant Latin paradigms and learn important names and dates from classical and American history. Middle school students study formal logic and engage in debates. Older students read Homer and Virgil, Chaucer and Spenser, Shakespeare and Dante. Every high school student takes two years of rhetoric, using Aristotle as a text, and the hardy have the chance to learn Greek.

To read more click here.

Among Evangelicals, Divorce Doesn’t Carry the Stigma it Once Did

W hen Pentecostal power couple Randy and Paula White announced they were headed to divorce court, the most remarkable part of the reaction was that there wasn’t much reaction at all.

For increasing numbers of clergy, a divorce no longer generates the kind of career-killing hue and cry of decades ago, in part because plenty of people in the pews have experienced divorce themselves.

To read more click here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Joel Osteen: Your Best Heresy Now - The History Behind the Heresy

"Name it, claim it"; the "health-and-wealth" or "prosperity gospel": these are nicknames for a heresy that in many respects is only an extreme version of perhaps the most typical focus of American Christianity today more generally. Basically, God is there for you and your happiness. He has some rules and principles for getting what you want out of life and if you follow them, you can have what you want. Just "declare it" and prosperity will come to you.1 God as Personal Shopper.

Although explicit proponents of the so-called "prosperity gospel" may be fewer than their influence suggests, its big names and best-selling authors (T. D. Jakes, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, and Joyce Meyer) are purveyors of a pagan worldview with a peculiarly American flavor. It's basically what the sixteenth century German monk turned church reformer Martin Luther called the "theology of glory": How can I climb the ladder and attain the glory here and now that God has actually promised for us after a life of suffering? The contrast is the "theology of the cross": the story of God's merciful descent to us, at great personal cost, a message that the Apostle Paul acknowledged was offensive and "foolish to Greeks."

Joel Osteen: Another Verse of a Really Long Song
The attraction of Americans to this version of the "glory story" is evident in the astonishing success of Joel Osteen's runaway best-seller, Your Best Life Now: Seven Steps to Living at Your Full Potential. Beyond his charming personality and folksy style, Osteen's phenomenal attraction is no doubt related to his simple and soothing sampler of the American gospel: a blend of Christian and cultural elements that he picked up not through any formal training, but as the son of a Baptist-turned-prosperity evangelist who was a favorite on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). However, gone are the eccentric caricatures of "prosperity" televangelism, with its flamboyant style and over-the-top rhetoric.

To read more click here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Video: Rick Warren on How We Get To Heaven

Rick Warren was asked a very simple question by Sean Hannity that even a lay-person should be able to answer. Unfortunately his answer is not biblical.

HT: A Little Leaven

Quote: Thomas Watson on Our Love Affair with Sin

Mark what sin you are most readily led captive by—that is the harlot in your bosom! It is a sad thing that a man should be so bewitched by lust, that if it asks him to part with the kingdom of heaven—he must part with it, to gratify that lust!

Thomas Watson; From the sermon "The Godly Man's Picture Drawn with a Scripture Pencil"

Monday, February 11, 2008

What Americans Should But Don’t Know About Religion

At the Pew Forum's biannual Faith Angle Conference on religion, politics and public life, Stephen Prothero, author of Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know -- And Doesn't, argues that the United States is one of the most religious countries on earth, but Americans know nothing about religion -- their own or the religions of others. He asks: How can we engage a politician who is rightly or wrongly invoking the Bible or using religion for political purposes without knowing something about religion ourselves, as citizens, journalists and academics? Prothero thinks the impact of religious illiteracy on foreign policy is even more significant: Did we understand Iraq as a place where people are, in many cases, primarily motivated by religion?

To read more click here.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

What's in a Name? God's Self-Disclosure

God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, `The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.”

In the modern world, a person’s name is merely an identifying label, like a number, which could be changed without loss. Bible names, however, have their background in the widespread tradition that personal names give information, describing in some way who people are. The Old Testament constantly celebrates the fact that God has made his name known to Israel, and the psalms direct praise to God’s name over and over (Pss. 8:1; 113:1-3, 145:1-2, 148:5, 13). “Name” here means God himself as he has revealed himself by word and deed. At the heart of this self-revelation is the name by which he authorized Israel to invoke him—Yahweh as modern scholars write it, Jehovah as it used to be rendered, the Lord as it is printed in English versions of the Old Testament.

God declared this name to Moses when he spoke to him out of the thornbush that burned steadily without being burned up. God began by identifying himself as the God who had committed himself in covenant to the patriarchs (cf. Gen. 17:1-14); then, when Moses asked him what he might tell the people that this God’s name was (for the ancient assumption was that prayer would be heard only if you named its addressee correctly), God first said “I am who I am” (or, “I will be what I will be”), then shortened it to “I am,” and finally called himself “the Lord (Hebrew Yahweh, a name sounding like “I am” in Hebrew), the God of your fathers” (Exod. 3:6, 13-16). The name in all its forms proclaims his eternal, self-sustaining, self-determining, sovereign reality—that supernatural mode of existence that the sign of the burning bush had signified. The bush, we might say, was God’s three-dimensional illustration of his own inexhaustible life. “This is my name forever,” he said—that is, God’s people should always think of him as the living, reigning, potent, unfettered and undiminished king that the burning bush showed him to be (Exod. 3:15).

Later (Exod. 33:18–34:7) Moses asks to see God’s “glory” (adorable self-display), and in reply God did “proclaim his name” thus: “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished . . .” At the burning bush God had answered the question, In what way does God exist? Here he answers the question, In what way does God behave? This foundational announcement of his moral character is often echoed in later Scriptures (Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:15; Joel 2:13; John 4:2). It is all part of his “name,” that is, his disclosure of his nature, for which he is to be adored forever.

God rounds off this revelation of the glory of his moral character by calling himself “the Lord, whose name is Jealous” (Exod. 34:14). This echoes, with emphasis, what he said of himself in the sanction of the second commandment (Exod. 20:5). The jealousy affirmed is covenantal: it is the virtue of the commited lover, who wants the total loyalty of the one he has bound himself to honor and serve.

In the New Testament, the words and acts of Jesus, the incarnate Son, constitute a full revelation of the mind, outlook, ways, plans, and purposes of God the Father (John 14:9-11; cf. 1:18). “Hallowed be your name” in the Lord’s prayer (Matt. 6:9) expresses the desire that the first person of the Godhead will be revered and praised as the splendor of his self-disclosure deserves. God is to be given glory for all the glories of his name, that is, his glorious self-revelation in creation, providence, and grace.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Logos Global Bible Reader Program

If you have not heard about this program you have to get it, and I am not just saying that because I am a Logos fan-boy. First of all it is FREE! and works incredibly well with a clean look and feel. It is pre-loaded with the King James and ESV bible versions and a solid array of reading programs to choose from. I have it on my home computer and work computer to help me stay on track. Give it a try, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain, especially if you are one of those that according to Logos research falls off of your reading schedule in March.

What it is in their words:

Global Bible Reader helps you stay on track with your daily Bible readings by connecting you to a community of people all following the same reading schedule. Global Bible Reader presents you with today’s reading, keeps track of your progress, and lets you communicate with everyone else who’s reading with you.

Colporteurs: Bringing the Bible to Black Americans

The term "colporteur" is not familiar to most people. But those who acted as colporteurs for the American Bible Society formed an essential link between the Bible and African Americans. Dating back to 1796, it comes from a French word that came to refer to those who travel to sell or distribute Bibles and religious writings.

The Bible has always played a significant role in the African American religious experience and also has been a primary source for literacy skills for many. The American Bible Society has vigorously worked to share the Word of God with the African American community since its founding in 1816. At the beginning of the 20th century the Bible Society created a new form of Scripture distribution that significantly increased the role of African Americans in providing Scriptures to their communities.

In 1900, Bible Society leaders responded to the new situations created by the Supreme Court's "separate but equal" decision and the uneven Bible distribution in the southern states by launching the "Agency Among the Colored People of the South." The creation of this Agency was a direct response to the racism that African Americans were experiencing. The new Agency's sole purpose was to distribute the Bible among African Americans in the South. In developing the Agency, the Bible Society was making a statement that all people are children of God and no one should be marginalized because of their race.

With the launching of the Agency, the leaders of the Bible Society placed the distribution of God's Word in the hands of African American colporteurs - home missionaries in the South. The door-to-door standard method of distribution was successful in rural areas and when furnishing Scriptures to blacks living in urban areas, colporteurs received significant help from black churches.

The initial group of six colporteurs worked in six states: Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana and South Carolina. By 1920, 16 colporteurs were at work in 13 states. Most of the colporteurs were seminary-trained members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Their outreach extended to many other traditional African American denominations, including the African Methodist Episcopal Church, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the former Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (now Christian Methodist Episcopal Church), and the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A., Inc.

Most people received the colporteurs warmly, gathered their families together, and requested them to read selections aloud. A colporteur's arrival was a special event, which helped overcome feelings of separation and isolation for rural families. In the cities, colporteurs found established African American neighborhoods with thriving local institutions. The local African American church usually provided a focal point for introducing and carrying out the work of the Bible Society. Colporteurs also engaged in furnishing the Bible to those huddled on street corners, highways and in rail stations.

Over the years, the Agency expanded and provided spiritual refuge to families, servicemen and youth. Their work eventually led the Bible Society to reconsider its approach to sharing God's Word with African Americans who were, indeed "equal," but still segregated.

So it was in 1959 that the Bible Society visibly identified with intensified protests against segregation and moved to take part in the fight for civil rights by eliminating aspects of its operation that bore any semblance to segregation. This made the valuable, but segregated, work of the colporteurs an anachronism. An internal reorganization ended the Bible Society's special mission among African Americans in the United States.

To this day the American Bible Society has kept its commitment to building strong relationships with America's African American communities in carrying out the mission of sharing the Good News. Information about colporteurs, in addition to a wealth of information about the African American religious story, can be found in the American Bible Society's African American Jubilee Edition of the Bible. This edition contains nearly 300 pages of articles, papers and art that provide a lens through which to view the African American experience.

Founded in 1816 and headquartered in New York City, the mission of the American Bible Society is to make the Bible available to every person in a language and format each can understand and afford, so that all people may experience its life-changing message. The American Bible Society Web site is http://www.bibles.com/.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Predestined to be Chosen by God

“I have loved you,” says the Lord. “But you ask, `How have you loved us?’ “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” the Lord says. “Yet I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated. . . .”

The forty and more writers who produced the sixty-six books of Scripture over something like fifteen hundred years saw themselves and their readers as caught up in the outworking of God’s sovereign purpose for his world, the purpose that led him to create, that sin then disrupted, and that his work of redemption is currently restoring. That purpose in essence was, and is, the endless expression and enjoyment of love between God and his rational creatures—love shown in their worship, praise, thanks, honor, glory, and service given to him, and in the fellowship, privileges, joys, and gifts that he gives to them.

The writers look back at what has already been done to advance God’s redemptive plan for sin-damaged planet earth, and they look ahead to the day of its completion, when planet earth will be re-created in unimaginable glory (Isa. 65:17-25; 2 Pet. 3:10-13; Rev. 21:1–22:5). They proclaim God as the almighty Creator-Redeemer and dwell constantly on the multifaceted works of grace that God performs in history to secure for himself a people, a great company of individuals together, with whom his original purpose of giving and receiving love can be fulfilled. And the writers insist that as God has shown himself absolutely in control in bringing his plan to the point it has reached as they write, so he will continue in total control, working out everything according to his own will and so completing his redemptive project. It is within this frame of reference (Eph. 1:9-14; 2:4-10; 3:8-11; 4:11-16) that questions about predestination belong.

Predestination is a word often used to signify God’s foreordaining of all the events of world history, past, present, and future, and this usage is quite appropriate. In Scripture and mainstream theology, however, predestination means specifically God’s decision, made in eternity before the world and its inhabitants existed, regarding the final destiny of individual sinners. In fact, the New Testament uses the words predestination and election (the two are one), only of God’s choice of particular sinners for salvation and eternal life (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:4-5, 11). Many have pointed out, however, that Scripture also ascribes to God an advance decision about those who finally are not saved (Rom. 9:6-29; 1 Pet. 2:8; Jude 4), and so it has become usual in Protestant theology to define God’s predestination as including both his decision to save some from sin (election) and his decision to condemn the rest for their sin (reprobation), side by side.

To the question, “On what basis did God choose individuals for salvation?” it is sometimes replied: on the basis of his foreknowledge that when faced with the gospel they would choose Christ as their Savior. In that reply, foreknowledge means passive foresight on God’s part of what individuals are going to do, without his predetermining their action. But

(a) Foreknow in Romans 8:29; 11:2 (cf. 1 Pet. 1:2 and 1:20, where the NIV renders the Greek foreknown as “chosen” ) means “fore-love” and “fore-appoint”: it does not express the idea of a spectator’s anticipation of what will spontaneously happen.

(b) Since all are naturally dead in sin (i.e., cut off from the life of God and unresponsive to him), no one who hears the gospel will ever come to repentance and faith without an inner quickening that only God can impart (Eph. 2:4-10). Jesus said: “No one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him” (John 6:65, cf. 44; 10:25-28). Sinners choose Christ only because God chose them for this choice and moved them to it by renewing their hearts.

Though all human acts are free in the sense of being self-determined, none are free from God’s control according to his eternal purpose and foreordination.

Christians should therefore thank God for their conversion, look to him to keep them in the grace into which he has brought them, and confidently await his final triumph, according to his plan.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Is the Human Heart Evil Beyond Redemption?

So perverse is the human heart that even when a person grows up under the constant sound of the gospel and hears the Word preached regularly, and has surrounding him or her godly models of the Christian life, unless God acts in sovereign grace, there will be no saving faith in the heart. Well did John Calvin put it in his Treatise on Eternal Election (1562): ‘It is not within our power to convert ourselves from our evil life, unless God changes us and cleanses us by his Holy Spirit.’[1]

HT: Michael Haykin

Churches Battle NFL for Super Bowl Use

God vs. Gridiron
As Church Super Bowl Parties Are Busted By NFL, Some Pastors Try End Runs

One unlikely match-up Sunday pits two powerhouse opponents against each other: the National Football League and the Christian church.

On one side are church-sponsored Super Bowl parties with big-screen TVs, soft drinks and some soul-saving talk at halftime. On the other are NFL lawyers threatening to crack down on unauthorized use of the game. The league, which owns both the Super Bowl name and the broadcast, has restrictions that limit TV screens to 55 inches at public viewings, except at venues like bars and restaurants that regularly broadcast sporting events. Airing the game at events that promote a message, including a religious message, is forbidden.

Churches have long used the Super Bowl to draw newcomers and build fellowship among congregants. But in the face of legal threats, many are scaling back. Last month, a congregation of deaf Christians in upstate New York scratched plans to broadcast the game with closed captioning after learning they might be sued. At the First Baptist Church in Summerfield, N.C., the Rev. Richard Odom canceled plans to host 500 people. "God didn't command us to watch the Super Bowl," he says.

Others have rebranded their events as "Big Game Fellowship" or "Superb Owl" parties to avoid the trademarked phrase Super Bowl, or moved their parties to restaurants or congregants' homes to dodge the league's screen-size restrictions for "mass out-of-home viewings."

True Knowledge of God Can Only Come Through Faith

“But let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. JEREMIAH 9:24

In 1 Timothy 6:20-21 Paul warns Timothy against “what is falsely called knowledge (Greek gnosis), which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.” Paul is attacking theosophical and religious tendencies that developed into Gnosticism in the second century a.d. Teachers of these beliefs and practices told believers to see their Christian commitment as a somewhat confused first step along the road to “knowledge,” and urged them to take more steps along that road. But these teachers viewed the material order as worthless and the body as a prison for the soul, and they treated illumination as the complete answer to human spiritual need. They denied that sin was any part of the problem, and the “knowledge” they offered had to do only with spells, celestial passwords, and disciplines of mysticism and detachment. They reclassified Jesus as a supernatural teacher who had looked human, though he was not; the Incarnation and the Atonement they denied, and replaced Christ’s call to a life of holy love with either prescriptions for asceticism or permission for licentiousness. Paul’s letters to Timothy (1 Tim. 1:3-4; 4:1-7; 6:20-21; 2 Tim. 3:1-9); Jude 4, 8-19; 2 Peter 2; and John’s first two letters (1 John 1:5-10; 2:9-11, 18-29; 3:7-10; 4:1-6, 5:1-12; 2 John 7-11) are explicitly opposing beliefs and practices that would later emerge as Gnosticism.

By contrast, Scripture speaks of “knowing” God as the spiritual person’s ideal: namely, the fullness of a faith-relationship that brings salvation and eternal life and generates love, hope, obedience, and joy. (See, for example, Exod. 33:13; Jer. 31:34; Heb. 8:8-12; Dan. 11:32; John 17:3; Gal. 4:8-9; Eph. 1:17-19; 3:19; Phil. 3:8-11; 2 Tim. 1:12.) The dimensions of this knowledge are intellectual (knowing the truth about God: Deut. 7:9; Ps. 100:3); volitional (trusting, obeying, and worshiping God in terms of that truth); and moral (practicing justice and love: Jer. 22:16; 1 John 4:7-8). Faith-knowledge focuses on God incarnate, the man Christ Jesus, the mediator between God and us sinners, through whom we come to know his Father as our Father (John 14:6). Faith seeks to know Christ and his power specifically (Phil. 3:8-14). Faith’s knowledge is the fruit of regeneration, the bestowal of a new heart (Jer. 24:7; 1 John 5:20), and of illumination by the Spirit (2 Cor. 4:6; Eph. 1:17). The knowledge-relationship is reciprocal, implying covenantal affection on both sides: we know God as ours because he knows us as his (John 10:14; Gal. 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:19).

All Scripture has been given to help us know God in this way. Let us labor to use it for its proper purpose.

Friday, February 1, 2008

No resurrection, No Christianity

James A. Scroggins, Jr., dean of Boyce College, was one of three professors to sign the Abstract of Principles during Spring Convocation Tuesday at Southern Seminary. The Abstract is Southern Seminary's confession of faith. Professors must agree to teach "in accordance with and not contrary to" the statement of faith and signing the document is public affirmation of their agreement.

Without the truthfulness of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, there is no Christianity and no salvation for sinners, R. Albert Mohler Jr. told students and faculty during the annual Spring Convocation Tuesday at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

To read more click here.

Belgic Confession: Article 13: The Doctrine of God's Providence

We believe that this good God, after he created all things, did not abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without his orderly arrangement.

Yet God is not the author of, nor can he be charged with, the sin that occurs. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that he arranges and does his work very well and justly even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly.

We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ's disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits.

This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father. He watches over us with fatherly care, keeping all creatures under his control, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the ground^20 without the will of our Father.

In this thought we rest, knowing that he holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who cannot hurt us without his permission and will.

For that reason we reject the damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God involves himself in nothing and leaves everything to chance.

^20 Matt. 10:29-30

To read the Belgic Confession click here.